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Posted 10/28/2013

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By Bernard Tate

Many federal employees dream of retiring to a house by a lake and writing the Great American Novel.  Joe Woods actually did it.  His fifth novel, Secrets of the Spiral Tower, was published Oct. 15.

Joe Woods, a Mississippi native, worked for the U.S. Forest Service in the Tahoe National Forest for two years. He returned to Mississippi and worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Vicksburg District for 38 years, retiring in 2003.

Woods’ lifelong passion for writing was rekindled after a severe heart attack in 1992.

“As I came out of the anesthetic, the doctor said, ‘Mr. Woods, if there’s anything that you want to do in your life, I recommend that you do it,’” Woods said.  “I guess that meant he thought I didn’t have much time left.  Well, that 21 years and five novels ago.”

Woods’ recuperation from the heart attack included resting quietly in a recliner for half of each day.  Woods used the time to write a novel that he had been thinking about for years.  Woods wrote Where the Ferry Crosses on legal pads with a ballpoint pen while sitting in his recliner.

Woods went back to work as branch chief of Operations Division in Vicksburg District, but he didn’t stop writing.  He wrote Where the Ferry Crosses, The Trial and Old Main Burning while working for USACE, and An Unexpected Flight and Secrets of the Spiral Tower since retirement.

The novels are the story of the McKenzie clan of Mississippi, focusing on Woods’ main character, Woodrow “Woody” McKenzie.  In Secrets of the Spiral Tower, when Willow McKenzie’s Jaguar is pulled from the Mississippi River and her body found in the trunk, Woody vows to find his cousin’s killer and investigates the 10-year-old cold case.

Woods says that Secrets of the Spiral Tower is the final installment of the series he calls “The McKenzie Chronicles,” but it definitely won’t be his last book.

“Since I’ve moved to a new house with a front porch that overlooks my five-acre lake, I’m thinking of sitting on the porch and reflecting about growing up in the United States and living and working in several locations across our beautiful country,” Woods said.  “The working title is Front Porch Reflections.”

joe woods mississippi novel Vicksburg District